Students protest proposed transit cuts

Moqui Joy addressing the protesters (Mys Helen Martin/MSR News)

At the end of 2016, more than 10,000 Metro Transit student passes were in use. Last Tuesday, May 2, several Minneapolis young people concerned about losing their primary means of transportation to school and other destinations publicly denounced the legislature’s proposed cuts to transit funding.

Students gathered in the middle of 22nd and 23rd Avenues on Lake Street advocating for themselves and their community by giving substantial reasons why funding for transit should not be reduced. Representatives of Transportation Forward were also in attendance as a coalition for the youth.

In Minneapolis, students rely solely on public transportation to get them to and from school and everywhere else in their community. If granted, Metro Transit states that the proposed cuts will force them to decrease bus routes by 40 percent and increase bus fares by fifty cents.

According to one student organizer, 17-year-old Collin Robinson, “If we reduce funds as a state, not only do we affect students [who take public transportation to and from school], but also their families… It is up to us as a city, us as students, and us as the people of Minneapolis and of the state that use metro transit to stand up and say, ‘This proposed cut is not right and is not good for our students or our families.'”

Four other students joined Robinson to describe how the proposed cuts to transit funds would negatively impact them and their families. “If it wasn’t for public transportation, I don’t know if I would be able to participate in the PSEO program or get to class on time.” said Moqui Joy, another 17-year-old Minneapolis student who also attends MCTC part-time.

“Metro Transit provided for me the access to have a higher education, and because of them, other students and I are able to get an Associate’s degree at the age of 17 or 18, and that’s an amazing opportunity,” said Joy.

Another student showed concern for her community, stating, “Public transportation is something that community members can all access to get around and have access to transportation that they might not have had… We need to use what’s available to us and use that to help the community.”

Andrea Kiepe, with Transportation Forward, took the stand to inform the group that the total ridership for 2016 was 4.2 million. “Drastic transit cuts put our environment, our economic vitality, and our quality of life at risk,” said Kiepe. “We are calling for Governor Dayton and the state legislature to retract transit cuts and to finally invest in transportation options that benefit all Minnesotans.”

“Why make it harder for thousands of young people to make it to school and to succeed? Why make it harder for anyone to get to school or work, the grocery store, a doctor’s appointment, or to participate in their community?”

In an interview with the MSR, Robinson stated that using public transit “is the best move that Minneapolis schools have made. Youth can go to each school… Metro Transit opens the gate for youth to participate in after-school activities, get a job, and more. By cutting the funding, you are closing a lot of opportunities.”

Most students’ number-one concern is how they will get to school if this cut in transit take place. “I do a lot of sports after school and use public transportation to take me to and from school… If I didn’t have public transportation I would not go to school, because I [would] have no way, and I am not old enough to drive,” Robinson said.

Metro Transit specifically provides additional buses and routes to get students to and from schools; most schools even provide a bus stop directly in front of an entrance. “Reducing funding to this essential service as the state legislature has proposed will bring hardship to the people that rely on it most,” stated Kiepe.

Transportation Forward plans to hold another rally on Tuesday, May 16, 6-7:30 pm at the Green Line Capitol Station between University Avenue and Park Street in Saint Paul. They invite supporters to come advocate for transit riders and urge the governor to support better transit statewide and veto transit cuts.

“You meet people [using public transportation], you connect with your community, and it’s…Minneapolis,” said Joy.

 

Mys Helen Martin welcomes readers’ responses to mmartin.facesofchange@gmail.com.